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My Cage

At4w my cage by mtc studio-d8tl4f3-1024x453.png

Released
May 18, 2015
Time
17:11
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Tagline
A comic strip about all the normal hardships we encounter in life... like our feline coworker trying to make us suffer and/or murder us.
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Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. But today, we're not talking about bad comics... just like last week. And the week before. And the episode be(massages his forehead in frustration) You know, someday we're actually gonna start talking about bad comics again.

(Cut to the cover of "My Cage: Year One")

Linkara (v/o): Today, however, we have another Patreon-sponsored review: the comic strip "My Cage".

Linkara: I can't help but relate to that title a little, given this show.

Linkara (v/o): And although I'm usually disinclined to review web-based comic stuff. This one can get away with it because, from 2007 to 2010, "My Cage" was an actual newspaper strip.

Linkara: Speaking of, comic strips are a bit of a new territory for us, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm not as familiar with the tropes of it as–

(Suddenly, the screen is cut off by static, and we cut to John Weber, the Comic Strip Critic, who hosts the web series The Punchline)

CSC: Don't worry, Linkara. I shall assist you in this matter.

Linkara: (confused) Wha?

CSC: I'm your comic strip critic, and I run a show that talks exclusively about comic strips. You can check it out here.

(The web URL for CSC's show is shown: "youtube.com/comicstripcritic")

CSC: Oh, and this is my text.

(An impact-looking font is displayed reading: "He secretly likes One More Day!")

CSC: Shut up.

Linkara: Oh, for the love of... (massages his forehead exasperatedly) Can I not go two weeks without a cameo anymore?!

CSC: Wait, wait, I thought you wanted cameos?

Linkara: Where'd you get that idea from?

CSC: From Beth Elderkin, over at Shark Jumping.

(Cut to Beth as she speaks on her computer)

Beth: This will teach you not to listen to our ideas.

Tim Sampeson: (entering the room) Hey, have you seen my file–

Beth: SHUT UP, TIM, THIS IS IMPORTANT!

(Cut back to CSC)

CSC: Anyway, the point is, I'm at your disposal for any information you want about comic strip knowledge and lore.

Linkara: Well, thank you for the offer, but I don't think I'll need the help.

CSC: Oh, but Linkara... (shakes finger) you will. (cackles evilly)

Linkara: No, I won't.

CSC: Ah, well, it was worth a shot.

Linkara: Um, so anyway, let's dig into the first year of (holds up today's comic) "My Cage".

(AT4W title sequence is shown, and the title card has "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" by Smashing Pumpkins playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)

Linkara (v/o): The odd thing to me about the strip is that press releases related to it describe it as "manga-inspired". While the artist of the comic, Melissa DeJesus...

Linkara: And while I don't know if that's the correct way to pronounce that name, it is the most awesome way.

Linkara (v/o): ...has done some work for Tokyo Pop, there's nothing really in "My Cage" that I would describe as "manga-inspired". The art is really no different than any other "funny animals" kind of story that exists out there. Oh, yeah, and another thing Melissa DeJesus worked on with Ed Power, the writer?

(Cut to a shot of a cover called "Santa vs. Dracula")

Linkara (v/o): A comic initially made for DC Comics' brief attempt at a web comics imprint, Zuda Comics, that was called "Santa vs. Dracula".

Linkara: And if that hasn't been made into a movie yet, why the hell not?

Linkara (v/o): The other thing that's kind of weird for me about reviewing this is that, well, by its very nature as a gag-a-day strip, there isn't really an ongoing "story" to critique here. The idea is to have it so that anybody who buys a newspaper can pick it up, get some quick chuckles, and then put it down again. That being said, it of course has a main character and a supporting cast. These are the "adventures" of Norm T. Platypus, who works at MacGuffin, Incorporated.

Linkara: Where he manufactures briefcases with glow-in-the-dark interiors.

Linkara (v/o): Actually, his job is... I don't know. His job seems to involve talking to customers or just being at work doing office-y, cubicle things, but it's never quite clear what the job is, exactly... which is kind of a problem, considering the title of the strip and its premise is about how Norm is kind of miserable at his job. He's described as a supervisor, and at one point, his boss tells him that he basically lets him run the place, except nobody seems to follow his directions and, well, they're all kind of dicks to him. Hell, it's not limited to his coworkers. His girlfriend, Bridget T. Dog – more on that in a bit – is at first worried about him having an attractive new coworker, but when she sees her, she says her jealousy is over because she says she's too attractive for Norm and she'd never date him.

Linkara: Which raises a lot of points, starting with "Wow, you're a jerk!", but ending with "Wait, do you have a lot of self-loathing and concern about your own looks, then?"

Linkara (v/o): Then again, Norm is not exactly immune to being a dick himself. Aside from being kind of clueless about Bridget's feelings and concerns at times, he tends to think privately about some of his coworkers suck or even openly insults one in particular who I'll get into a bit later. By that same token, though, everyone gets along well enough despite the insults. I get the impression that it's meant to be more good-natured ribbing; it just doesn't necessarily come off that way at times. It's like how real people can insult one another but laugh about it. And... that's just life. Which is what this is: a slice-of-life comic.

Linkara: And that's okay. I think after last week, which featured warring cyborg factions in the future fighting over galactic domination and time-travel hijinks, we need something a bit more down-to-Earth... featuring animals writing emails about how miserable they are.

Linkara (v/o): Although, there is the occasional instance where I think they go too far, like when Norm's coworker Ashley created a voodoo doll of Norm out of office supplies, declaring it to be a "ritualistic stabbing doll" since she didn't know voodoo.

Linkara: Norm, when your coworkers are discussing how they want to stab an effigy of you, it might be time to start polishing up the old resume.

Linkara (v/o): The two have an odd relationship, mostly revolving around Ashley trying to make him suffer, seemingly just for her own amusement, but he doesn't seem to mind all that much other than mild annoyance. Occasionally, the early strips are just... bizarre. For example, there's one strip about an orange shark named Jeff...

Linkara: Because sharks can breathe outside the water in this universe. And work office jobs. Despite only having fins. (makes some typing motions with his hands close to his arms, as though they were fins)

Linkara (v/o): ...where he asks Norm if he's the "office kanucklehead", which Norm assures him that he's important and respected, but then privately thinks that the K is silent for "knucklehead". I've never heard of the term "kanucklehead" my entire life, and a quick Google search doesn't reveal what the hell that is, unless they mean "Canuck", meaning (sounds confused) "the office Canadian"? Are American offices known for having token Canadians? Or is the joke that he's an idiot because he got the word wrong? Except "kanucklehead" is already viewed by him as an insult regardless of the mispronunciation, so I just... I don't get it. There's another where Norm mentions that Bridget says that he should get a second belt.

Norm: (thinking) After all, she was right on the money about buying a second towel. Now one of use can shower even when the other is washing dishes.

(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons)

Rainier Wolfcastle: (doing standup) That's the joke.

Linkara: Mind you, that's the problem with gag-a-day strips. Occasionally, there will be days when it's just not funny. You can't be expected to always be funny on a regular basis. I mean, it'd be like having to produce without any vacation or break, for six-and-a-half years, where you're expected to be funny, intelligent, insightful and entertaining, AND THEY JUST WON'T LET ME STOP!!!

(He lets out a scream and the screen suddenly gets cut off by static. Cut then to a "technical difficulties" cover, showing an insane Linkara in a straitjacket, while pleasant music plays in the background. Then cut back, through more static, to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): Anyway, speaking of Jeff, he does unfortunately come across as an idiot to everyone.

Linkara: Shows how much they know. He's the only dude in the office who gets to work from a bathtub.

Linkara (v/o): Norm's more than a bit of a geek himself, even at one point imagining himself in Return of the Jedi and rescuing Bridget in the slave Leia bikini as Luke. Wait, he's imagining himself as Luke... and his girlfriend as Leia... Luke's sister... Yeah, it's really no surprise that he's also in therapy. Mind you, that could also be the signs of depression he seems to show, but nah, it's probably the fantasies. Although, speaking of, he did bring up a good point once: why the hell don't the Jedi and Sith just use the Force to turn their opponents' lightsabers off?

Linkara: Now, before you start posting your explanations in the comments, I should tell you, I already know the answer: because then there wouldn't be a movie.

Linkara (v/o): I am rather confused about the animal nature of this universe. Of course, everybody is an anthropomorphic animal, but everybody's last names are their animal. So... like, is this just a massive coincidence, or do their last names in this society not actually refer to a proper last name as much as it does identifying species for people who are socially clueless? And the majority of animals that we see are mammals. Is there a Rufus T. Dungbeetle out there? And yeah, everybody has the T middle name, indicating that everyone's middle name is "The". What happens if two of the same species request the same name? Is there a legal thing they have to file, or is it just so infrequent that nobody worries about it? Hell, in one instance, we actually get the reverse. There's a reference to the actress Salmon Hayek. Did she change her name to that, or does fish culture in this universe reverse the names? At one point, they mention Tim Birdton's "Batbat' movies. "Batbat"?

Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) Look, I just get confused sometimes about what species I am. It's not made any easier when my sidekick is still named Robin!

Linkara (v/o): And yet later, Superanimal is brought up, so I don't know what the hell's going on there. There is one strip where Norm is talking to Jeff about how their ancestors used their body parts, like poison spurs and multiple rows of teeth, to fight off predators and consume prey and whatnot. Plus, the website this is hosted on, Go Comics, describes the script as being in the future and thus animals evolved into their current forms.

Linkara: So, a planet where apes evolved from men, but also where office workers evolved from platypuses.

Linkara (v/o): And yet, Kevin Bacon apparently exists in this world. Or is Kevin Bacon a pig here? Wait, do the animals eat bacon in this world? Are these people cannibals?! Because this is supposed to resemble the human world of today, they still require pets. The solution to this is... a pet amoeba. A giant amoeba, but said amoeba, named Squishy, is actually adorable and endearing. However, at one point, they encounter a mouse who has a dog on a leash, confusing Bridget until Norm reveals that the dog has a disease where he thinks he's non-anthropomorphic.

Linkara: But then, why is the mouse humoring his delusions?

Linkara (v/o): Norm has his own ideas for revitalizing franchises... and they're glorious ones at that. For example, there's his idea of taking a bunch of old '80s girls' cartoons and turning them all into an elite commando team: Cute Force! It features My Little Warhorse, Sgt. Shortcake, Rambo Brite, and turns that lion Care Bear into Lion-O from Thundercats!

Linkara: (dramatically) Cute Force: adorable... (points to camera) and deadly!

Linkara (v/o): Another idea: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... of DOOM!", wherein Willy Wonka, or the ram-based equivalent of the animal world, recruits the four problem children from the story into an elite commando team to fight Charlie, who has been putting mind control drugs in the chocolate and now has an army of Oompa Loompa ninjas.

Linkara: How is this platypus working in some corporate office when he is coming up with ideas like these? I bet, in this universe, he invented "Santa vs. Dracula".

Linkara (v/o): You know what does bug me about the script? The word balloons. Aside from the fact that they seem to be drawn before actually fitting the text into them, the font choice is annoying. It's not Comic Sans. At least, it didn't appear to be when I put some Comic Sans right next to it. But it looks really damn close. What's worse is that occasionally, there's some handwritten text that say Norm wrote in his journal, and that looks so much better than the word balloon stuff. If there is an ongoing story, it's just the recurring theme of Norm trying to figure out if it was worth sacrificing his own personal happiness for working in a soul-crushing environment in order to get his paycheck.

Linkara: Although, as I kept noticing while reading this, it's not so much the job doing that as much as it is Norm's coworkers.

Linkara (v/o): From Ashley digging through his stuff without permission and just doing little things to make him unhappy, to Violet, another egotistical coworker, who just seems to loathe other people as a general rule, to his boss Max, who flaunts his wealth and luxuries in front of Norm to make him feel inferior.

Linkara: Maybe Norm doesn't suffer from depression so much as he does suffer from a group of sociopaths.

Linkara (v/o): Less sociopathic and more fun is a recurring gag in the strip involving a coworker named Steve. He continually calls in sick with increasingly more ludicrous rationales for why he can't come in, from just existential ennui or to him being abducted by aliens, although that one actually happened. While the punchline refers to "the boy who cried wolf", or the other way around in the animal world, and how, if you always tell lies, nobody will believe you, honestly, I applaud Steve for for the alternate lesson you get from that story...

(Cut to a clip of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Elim Garak: That you should never tell the same lie twice.

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): Norm's issues are also made evident near the end of the first year of the strip, where we meet his dad and brother. His dad is (sarcastically) the happiest man on Earth, meaning that when Norm proposes a toast to them meeting Bridget and saying she completes his life, the dad complains about that meaning that the love from his family didn't complete him?

Linkara: Norm's dad walks through life (pats his heart) with a song in his heart and a smile on his soul.

Linkara (v/o): Yeah, he loves to complain and moan, to the point where he never has anything positive to say about Norm, nothing to compliment him about, and just generally has been a dick to him his entire life.

Linkara: It's that kind of love and affection that makes me wonder how the hell Norman didn't end up as a serial killer with his father as his first victim.

Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, I don't really know what it is that brought about the end of "My Cage", because honestly, it doesn't suck. Sure, there's the occasional strip that's not funny, but overall, I laughed quite a few times. It did get a proper conclusion to the story, too, which is more than even some comic books get out there. I actually recommend it if you have a long afternoon and want to just read something, since all the strips are running as reruns on Go Comics. Slice-of-life stuff isn't really to my usual tastes, but it's amusing, and since it only lasted for three years, you don't have to worry too much about getting bored with it before it wraps up. The artwork is fairly basic and cartoony, seeing as it's a cartoon and all, and it tells its story well, probably with more detailing to it than a lot of strips I've seen out there. Hell, "Dilbert" has gotten away with mocking office culture for 26 years, and most of its strips feature blank walls and gradient backgrounds.

Linkara: So yeah, check it out, especially if you're into slice-of-life stuff about platypuses who regain their dignity despite the constant attempt by their friends and loved ones to crush their spirit. Next week, the Punisher! And a whole lot of "what the hell were they thinking?". (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)

(End credits roll)

The "Cute Force" strip isn't actually part of the first year, but it's the first to appear digitally on Go Comics.

The font is, ironically enough, altered on the last strip of the first year into something much better.

The collection I'm holding is... okay, but it was clearly made from low-quality smaller strips when it was printed, resulting in artifacts and jagged lines.

Also: Santa vs. Dracula was eventually kickstarted and I've ordered a copy.

(Stinger: The Comic Strip Critic is shown again)

CSC: Linkara, I assure you, you will need my help.

(CSC cackles evilly, while text on the screen next appears, reading "What are you doing?")

(end)

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